Ron Dayne is an old-fashioned kind of football player. He isn’t flashy, he doesn’t say much, he isn’t the type to dance in the endzone. He just plays the game.
But that’s OK. When you are as good as Ron Dayne, people will notice and for all the right reasons. This season, the 5-10, 255-pound Wisconsin tailback became the leading rusher in major college history, rolling up 6,397 career yards and breaking the mark set by Ricky Williams of the University of Texas.
“I don’t know anyone who’s ever exemplified a program like Ron does,” Badger coach Barry Alvarez said. “Everything Wisconsin football is, that’s what Ron is. This school will be appreciating what he’s done for decades to come.”
Dayne won the Maxwell Football Club’s Collegiate Player of the Year Award in a landslide, receiving 75 percent of the first place votes. He was previously honored by the Club in 1995 as its High School Player of the Year for his brilliant career at Overbrook (N.J.) Regional High School. He is only the third player to win both the collegiate and high school awards. The others were Reds Bagnell (West Catholic, Penn) and John Cappelletti (Monsignor Bonner, Penn State).
Dayne was a tireless runner who carried Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten championships. He rushed for 200 yards or more in a game a dozen times, including his final game, a 17-9 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Dayne had 200 yards on 34 carries and was named the Rose Bowl’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year.
Dayne set his many records without padding them. This season, he sat out the fourth quarter in five different games when he easily could have piled up huge numbers. Whenever he was asked about individual honors, Dayne would respond: “It’s a team thing.” He led the Badgers by example, on and off the field.
“Ron is the most unselfish player I’ve ever been around,” said Brian White, Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator. “That’s why his teammates respect him so much. He never once questioned our decision to take him out of a game. With all he had riding on it, he trusts us to do what’s in his best interest and the team’s.
“Ron is the reason we’re able to become a nationally recognized program. You go into any high school in the country and they know who Ron Dayne is and they know what uniform number he wears. We have an identity to recruits because of the kind of player and person Ron is.”
“Ron Dayne is the real deal,” wrote Steve Bisheff in the Orange County (Ca.) Register. “He comes at you, down after down, game after game. Most of the time he has had to run against opponents gearing their entire game plans on stopping No. 33, which only makes Dayne’s career average of 5.8 yards per carry that much more amazing.
“He has the body of a fullback and the feet of a scatback. So if you’ll excuse me, I intend to carefully take my (award) ballot and print the name Ron Dayne up there at the top — enthusiastically.”
University of Wisconsin